The Metaverse 101 – how it might affect the world of work
Mark Zuckerberg’s October 2021 announcement that Facebook would be changing its name to Meta as a way to “bring the metaverse to life and help people connect, find communities and grow businesses” has spawned a flood of articles about the metaverse.
Much of the coverage focuses on examples of early instances of the metaverse, with local governments, manufacturers and corporations jumping on the bandwagon:
The entire 40-square-mile metro region of Orlando, Florida, may soon live virtually inside the offices of the Orlando Economic Partnership, which has partnered with a gaming company to develop a 3-D model that the city can show off to potential investors in its bid to grow as a tech hub.
Manufacturers are creating “digital twins”, virtual environments designed to be exact digital replicas of physical assets to allow rapid testing.
Information technology services and consulting company Accenture has dealt with the problems inherent in remote onboarding of new hires by creating One Accenture Park, a shared virtual space which new recruits can navigate with an avatar.
These developments point to potential profound shifts in the way businesses operate and in the way consumers might behave, as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) combine to create a shared virtual space in which people work and play.
A PwC study points out though that these shifts will take some time. Technology visionaries envisage a world that is platform-agnostic (in other words not created and controlled by one platform like Facebook). Instead, the vision goes: “customers (and businesses) will be able to take their identities, currencies, experiences and assets anywhere they wish.” It’s not clear that that kind of co-operation is on the table yet, or will be any time soon.
But the metaverse, or aspects of it, are already bringing changes that executives should pay attention to. Those changes affect the world of recruitment too, either through the creation of job titles and roles that are completely new, through the creation of new kinds of business in existing companies, or through the creation of a host of new jobs that didn’t exist before (Facebook is reported to be creating 10,000 new jobs to create its metaverse).
What should companies be doing about the metaverse now then?
PwC recommend three short-term steps:
1. get up to speed - assign at least one resource or group to understand key concepts such as cryptocurrencies and to follow the metaverse as it evolves;
2. develop a strategy - identify gaps to fill and opportunities to explore in the metaverse, then work on foundational measures. “Many companies, for example, will likely benefit from recruiting digital native employees already at home with the metaverse’s key concepts”;
3. test the waters - select a few opportunities available within the metaverse’s current underlying trends.
Some examples of those opportunities include:
alternate office spaces
places for immersive training
Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson, who has been thinking about virtual reality and the metaverse for decades, thinks that education and work will be the “killer apps” of virtual reality in the years to come.
How can recruitment and staff retention benefit from metaverse technology?
The Covid-19 pandemic pushed the world of work on to digital platforms. But, as Thomas Johann Lorenz, co-founder of Journee, told CNBC: “When it comes to retaining talent at your company, you need tools… that are stronger than just email and Zoom.” The immersive experiences offered by the metaverse could be a way to strengthening relationships and maintain company culture.
Practically speaking, the Society for Human Resource Management suggests that recruiters could use virtual reality goggles as a means of testing a candidate’s skill set in a virtual environment. And VR technology could also allow candidates to experience what it would be like to work in certain jobs or at specific organizations. Once the employees are hired, the employer can use VR to provide training in near-real-life situations, SHRM says.
Examples of organisations already using virtual worlds
CNBC reports that Hyundai is using virtual world app Zepeto for new employee inductions
Samsung is reportedly staging a virtual recruitment fair via a platform called Gather in September.
Harvard Business Review reports that PixelMax is building a virtual workplace for a group of 40 leading manufacturers in interior design in Manchester, England. The workplace aims to enable worker avatars to move between a manufacturing world and an interior design world, “or equally take that avatar and go and watch a concert in Roblox and Fortnite”.
Three metaverse job titles
- Software Engineer (Augmented Reality Platforms) - engineers with expertise in large-scale system design, networking and data storage, distributed computing, AI, information retrieval, natural language processing (NLP), UI design and others.
Discord Manager (Discord is a social media platform favoured by many gamers and the crypto community).
Smart Contract Lawyer (who can ensure that an agreement made in the metaverse is encoded in the blockchain layer used for the transaction).